9/30/2009

Old Testament Genocide

Justin Taylor weights in on the conquest of Canaan here. This is a careful and sober analysis.

9/25/2009

9/23/2009

God Is, Part 3 - Thinking about Thinking

God establishes reason, and without Him, we have no reason to be reasonable.

We reason by the laws of logic combined with facts we observe. For example, the Law of Non-contradiction, that A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship. These abstract, conceptual principles must be accounted for if any discussion on any topic is to take place. Only God can account for these laws. His thinking upholds ours.

If the laws of logic are based on human thinking, then we have to realize that people are different and the laws may differ from person to person. They are no longer absolute. Some particular examples follow.

If the laws of logic are just social conventions, then they are not absolute, and they can be ignored at will. My social network is, after all, different from yours.

How do we avoid the conclusion that all of our thinking is not the result of mere instinctive reactions to our environment? Since our environments are all different, we would all reach different conclusions. We would have no basis to argue because we could not change each other’s environments to the degree required to change each other’s minds.

If our thinking is a preconditioned response determined by our genetics, rational impulses would then be determined by genetics. There would be no decisions made in any traditional sense. We would all be pre-programmed to do what we do, and therefore there would be no sense in arguing. We could not change each other’s genetics, so no one could possibly win.

The laws of logic cannot come from science because science is based on inductive reasoning from things we see in our environments. For example, we cannot see the law of non-contradiction in the world. We would have to see the properties of a non-existent things (non-A). The laws of logic are abstract constructions that exist only in the mind. We discover the laws of logic by thought, not observation.
The laws of logic are also undeniable. If we say, for example, “I know the laws of logic do change. We’ve found scientific discoveries in quantum physics that disobey those laws.”

Any discovery you make must be logically understood. For example:

If the Law of Non-contradiction (A cannot be both A and Non-A at the same time, in the same relationship, and in the same sense) is not in effect, then you might as well say to me: “We’ve found scientific discoveries in quantum physics that obey the laws of logic.” “Obey” and “disobey” can have the same meaning in your sentence.

If the Law of Identity (something is what it is, something that exists has a specific nature) is not in effect, the discovery in question would not necessarily be a discovery. Your statement of the discovery could be: “We’ve found scientific discoveries in quantum physics that disobey those laws, but the discoveries changed into discoveries which followed the laws of logic when we came back the next day.”

If the Law of Excluded Middle (a statement is either true or false) is not in effect, your statement on quantum physics could be false even if it were true.

None of the sentences used by anyone would have any objective meaning if the laws of logic do not apply. If the laws of physics as they are currently understood do not apply, it does not follow that the laws of logic do not apply. This would go for any recent scientific discovery. As soon as a person opens their mouth to refute logic they have assumed it.

If Christians are wrong, we are left with no reason to think that we can have rational discourse. Atheists and agnostics cannot have an argument, because, in the ultimate sense, they do not have a position.

(Sources for the above are: John M. Frame, The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, and Tearing Down Strongholds: And Defending the Truth by R. C. Sproul, Jr. Of course, the mistakes are all mine.)

9/10/2009

“You should tell the devil “

Just by telling me that I am a miserable, great sinner you are placing a sword and a weapon into my hand with which I can decisively overcome you; yea, with your own weapon I can kill and floor you.

For if you tell me that I am a poor sinner, I, on the other hand, can tell you that Christ dies for sinners and is their Intercessor… You remind me of the boundless, great faithfulness and benefaction of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The burden of my sins and all the trouble and misery that were to
oppress me eternally He very gladly took upon His shoulders and suffered the bitter death on the cross for them.

To Him I direct you. You may accuse and condemn Him. Let me rest in peace, for on His shoulders, not on mine, lie all my sins and the sins of all the world.

Martin Luther

9/06/2009

John Calvin the Evangelist

John Calvin, a Sixteenth Century leader of the Protestant Reformation, is a well-known theologian. Calvin is well known for his teaching on divine election, the idea that God sovereignty chooses who will have faith in Christ. In many churches, Calvin is an arch villain who tried to stop evangelism. After all, if God chooses, why should we witness?

That is John Calvin as many know him: the stern teacher of election. But what they probably do not know is that Calvin was the leader of one of the largest, most successful church-planting movements in history.

Calvin became a Protestant in 1531 at age 22. He soon left his native Paris, France, because of persecution. Most of Calvin’s work was performed in his new home of Geneva, Switzerland.

Calvin and The City Council of Geneva had many conflicts. At one point, Calvin was even run out of town. He was asked to return, and after a few years most of his reforms were accepted by The City Council in about 1554.

Protestants from all over Europe fled Roman Catholic persecution. Many came to Geneva, including refugees from Calvin’s native France. Calvin and his leadership team saw an opportunity.

Calvin and his team carefully selected men from among the refugees. Each of these men was given a comprehensive theological education. The men were also closely watched to ensure they lived up to the faith they professed.

Calvin’s team had started 5 organized churches in France by 1555 using this strategy. Less than four years later, they had begun over 100 churches. By 1562, there were over 2,100 Protestant churches in France. Ultimately over 100 missionaries were sent.

Most think of the “Mega-church” (churches with large numbers of members) as a modern development, but some of Geneva’s new churches grew to over 4,000 members. One even had close to 9,000.

Calvin’s Geneva even sent two missionaries to what is now Brazil. However, they were martyred before they saw their first convert. Persecution was a fact of life for many of Geneva’s missionaries.

Odds are you have never heard of this side of John Calvin. But he was an evangelist. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

How does this fit with Calvin’s theology? Quite well, actually. I learned as much when I read Calvin’s books for myself.

All Christians, no matter what their views on election, should join Calvin in one of the prayers he often said: “Now let us fall down before the face of our good God, praying that He would be pleased to touch us with repentance…that He would be pleased to touch not only us but all the nations of the earth.” We can figure out all the details later.

Sources:

“John Calvin the Church Planter” by Dr. Frank James III


“John Calvin and his Missionary Enterprise” by Erroll Hulse

George, Timothy. “John Calvin: Comeback Kid.” Christianity Today. September 2009, Volume 53, Number 5. p. 27-32.

God Is, Part 2

This is the second in a short series of posts that give arguments for God’s existence. These arguments complement each other. That is, one proves one aspect of God’s nature; another proves another aspect, and so on.

My area of professional expertise is industrial engineering, also called “process engineering.” I have spent most of my life in the pursuit of process improvement. I have professionally applied myself to manufacturing processes in several industries. I have looked at ways to improve equipment, organization of jobs, the way human beings interact with machines, and the way humans interact with each other.

The purpose of a manufacturing process is to produce quality products, when needed by customers, at minimal cost, in a safe manner. There is one thing I know: a process left to itself does not produce products like that. If we take our hands off the controls, neglect the equipment, or ignore the people doing the work, we get bad products, late shipments, high costs, and increased injuries. If we neglect the process completely, we get nothing whatsoever.

The world around us is full of processes that move toward an organized purpose. We don’t have to look far at all to find them.

John Gerstner, in his book Reasons for Faith (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960, reprint 1995), uses this example on p. 34-35:

The dandelion sends up a little parachute to carry its seed along on the wind and find a place to germinate. That certainly spells intention … we search in vain to find anything in the dandelion that corresponds to our brain, the brain that enables us to think up useful plans.
We find the location of that purpose in “the ultimate cause which we have seen lies behind everything that is.” This is not an argument based on probabilities. Evidence for any purpose whatsoever at any point in any process demonstrates the existence of an intelligence to set that purpose.

I am arguing teleologicaly, that is, arguing from evidence that the things in nature seem to have a purpose. It’s a little like saying things are designed, but not exactly.

So now we have reasoned to a being that has always existed, has great power, and has the power to choose in our last post. Now we add that this Being has intelligence and intention. Only persons show the power to chose, intelligence, and intention. This fits the general idea of the eternal, personal God of the Bible.

The last post in this series will look at some abstract principles and processes that can only be explained by appeal to God.

9/01/2009

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: One Great Book

Thanks to In Light of the Gospel for posting a video introduction for Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham. This book is an excellent exploration of the historical evidence for the reliability of the New Testament Gospels. It contains up-to-date scholarly references and Bauckham’s own fresh approach.

See an additional review of the book by Ben Witherington here. Witherington applies Backham’s research to various current historical issues here.

Another review can be found here. Some endorsements and a less critical review can be found here. Background on Bauckham can be found here.

Search This Blog